Linear B po-re-na, po-re-si, and po-re-no-

2018.02.04 | By Roger D. Woodard

§0. Opinions have varied and swayed regarding the interpretation of the Linear B term po-re-na. Whatever meaning is assigned, many would draw the forms po-re-si and po-re-no- into their interpretation of po-re-na, and vice versa. In this investigation I begin with the interpretation of po-re-na that appears most probable and reconsider po-re-si and po-re-no- on the basis of both internal and comparative evidence.

(For a more expansive version of the argument below, now see

Sarcophagus (14th cent. BCE) from Aghia Triada, north side, Crete. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Sarcophagus (14th cent. BCE) from Hagia Triada, north side, Crete. Image via Wikimedia Commons.



§1. Pylos tablet Tn 316 has been the object of close scrutiny since the early days of Linear-B scholarship and remains a document of interest for various reasons, not least of which is the recurring verbal phrase do-ra-qe, pe-re, po-re-na-qe, a-ke.

.1      po-ro-wi-to-jo,
.2                     i-je-to-qe, pa-ki-ja-si, do-ra-qe, pe-re, po-re-na-qe
.3      pu-ro a-ke, po-ti-ni-ja AUR *215VAS 1 MUL 1
.4      ma-na-sa, AUR *213VAS 1 MUL 1 po-si-da-e-ja AUR *213VAS 1 MUL 1
.5      ti-ri-se-ro-e, AUR *216VAS 1          do-po-ta AUR *215VAS 1
.6      empty
.7      empty
.8      empty
.9      empty
.10    pu-ro
.1                     i-je-to-qe, po-si-da-i-jo, a-ke-qe, wa-tu
.2                     do-ra-qe, pe-re, po-re-na-qe, a-ke
.3a                                                                                                           -ja
.3b    pu-ro         AUR *215VAS 1 MUL 2 qo-wi-ja, ṇạ-[ ], ko-ma-we-te
.4                     i-je-to-qe, pe-ṛẹ-*82-jo, i-pe-me-de-ja-qe di-u-ja-jo-qe
.5                     do-ṛạ-qe, pe-re-po-re-na-qe, a, pe-re-*82 AUR+*213VAS 1 MUL 1
.6                          i-pe-me-ḍẹ-ja AUR 213VAS 1 di-u-ja AUR+213VAS 1 MUL 1
.7      pu-ro         e-ma-a2, a-re-ja AUR *216VAS 1 VIR 1
.8                        i-je-to-qe, di-u-jo, do-ra-qe, pe-re, po-re-na-qe a-ḳẹ
.9                          di-we AUR *213VAS 1 VIR e-ra AUR *213VAS 1 MUL 1
.10                           di-ri-mi-jo | di-wo, i-je-we, AUR *213VAS 1 [     ]
.11    puro
.12    empty
.13    empty
.14    empty
.15    empty
.16    pu-ro

The tablet can be translated in the following way. My interpretation of the verbal phrase do-ra-qe, pe-re, po-re-na-qe, a-ke has been informed by Willi (1994–1995), who rightly recognizes, I believe, a recurring coordinated syntagm of a primitive Indo-European pattern, and, especially, by Nagy (2015 and 2017), who realizes that a formulaic parallel to this lexical concatenation is expressed in Iliad 23.509–513:

.1   In the month of Plowistos
.2        Χ both offers sacrifice at Pa-ki-ja-ne, and carries gifts and
.3        takes Y for the carrying: to Potnia 1 GOLD *215-CUP [and] 1 WOMAN
.4   to Ma-na-sa 1 GOLD *213-BOWL [and] 1 WOMAN; to Posidāheia 1 GOLD *213-BOWL [and] 1 WOMAN
.5   to the Tris-hērōs : 1 GOLD *216-CUP; to Dospotās 1 GOLD *215-CUP
.1        X both offers sacrifice at the shrine of Poseidon, and the city takes
.2        and carries gifts and takes Y for the carrying:
.3        1 GOLD *215-CUP [and] 2 women to Boia // to Komāwenteiā
.4        and X offers sacrifice at the shrine of Pe-re-*82, of Iphimedeia, and of Diwia
.5        and carries gifts and takes Y for the carrying: to Pe-re-*82 1 GOLD *213-BOWL [and] 1 WOMAN
.6        to Iphimedeia 1 GOLD *213-BOWL; to Diwia 1 GOLD *213-BOWL [and] 1 WOMAN
.7        to Hermāhās a-re-ja 1 GOLD *216-CUP [and] 1 MAN
.8        X both offers sacrifice at the shrine of Zeus, and carries gifts and takes Y for the carrying:
.9        to Zeus 1 GOLD *213-BOWL [and] 1 MAN; to Hera *213-BOWL [and] 1 WOMAN;
.10      to Drimios | the son of Zeus 1 GOLD *213-BOWL [   ]

§2. In the formulaic phrase do-ra-qe, pe-re, po-re-na-qe, a-ke the form po-re-na is here interpreted as the infintive phorēnai (φορῆναι) ‘for the carrying.’ This interpretation follows the observations and suggestions of Ventris and Chadwick 1956:285 (“Though one might logically expect this last word [i.e. po-re-na] to be an unattested noun meaning something like ‘cup-bearer’, it is possible that it merely represents φορῆναι ‘to carry’.”);[2] Chantraine 1973:497 (“L’infinitif porena, qui semble attesté à Pylos [Documents, p. 285], répond exactement à l’homérique φορῆναι.”; see also p. 505); and especially Willi 1994–1995 and Nagy 1994–1995, revised and expanded in Nagy 2015 and Nagy 2017:100–122.[3] The infinitive phorēnai (φορῆναι) ‘for the carrying’ functions within the syntax of the tablet as, in effect, the dative of a verbal nominal, reflecting early Indo-European usage. The sense is thus ‘X carries gifts and takes Y for the carrying’, where the referent of X in context is likely to be understood as Pylos, and Y refers to an unnamed individual whom the agent ‘takes’ and who is given the task of ‘carrying’ the specified vessels. The conjunction of verbs denoting conveyance that is seen here—pherein and agein (φέρειν καὶ ἄγειν) ‘to carry/bear’ and ‘to take/drive’—represents a Greek reflex of a primitive Indo-European syntagm in which the coordination of *bher- and *h1aǵ- (or *h2eǵ-) expresses (respectively) the ‘carrying’ of portable plunder and the ‘taking’ or ‘driving away’ of animals or people. In his studies of Pylos tablet Tn 316 Nagy (2015:§§8–9, 17; 2017:100–103) underscores the parallel co-occurrence of these Greek verbs in Iliad 23.512–513, which, as we noted, he offers as a parallel for the procedures described in the tablet. In the epic the setting of the action is provided by the funeral games for Patroclus. The victory in the chariot race at the games has gone to the powerful warrior Diomedes; the prize is a tripod with handles and a slave woman. Diomedes’ Argive companion and charioteer, the ‘mighty Sthenelus’ (ἴφθιμος Σθένελος), takes possession of the prize and gives to his ‘comrades in arms’ (ἑταῖροι) (1) the woman ‘to take’ (ἄγειν) and (2) the tripod ‘to carry off’ (φέρειν), while he unyokes the horses. In his comments on the lines, Eustathius (Commentarii ad Homeri Iliadem 4.773) notes that here the use of agein (ἄγειν) ‘to take’ and pherein (φέρειν) ‘to carry off’ subscribes to the conventional practice of differentially applying the former verb to an ‘animate’ object (ἔμψυχος) and the latter to an ‘inanimate’ (ἄψυχος).

§3. While the recent interpretations of Willi and Nagy align with those of Chadwick 1956 and so on, by the date of the publication of the 1961 international colloquium on Mycenaean studies in Racine, Wisconsin,[4] Chadwick (1964:23) has changed his mind regarding the interpretation of po-re-na, identifying it as an “acc[usative] pl[ural],” hence, a nominal. [5] In the same volume, both Lejeune and Georgiev offer views on the form. Like Chadwick, Lejeune (1964:92) advocates for a nominal interpretation of po-re-na: “Du point de vue de la forme, po-re-na peut être soit l’accusatif (sg. ou pl.) d’un nom en –νᾱ, soit l’accusatif pl. d’un nom en -νον.” Georgiev, however, reads the form as the infinitive (1964:128)—“po-re-na = Hom. φορῆναι” (citing Ventris and Chadwick 1956:285 and Bartoněk 1959:121)—and in doing so reverses his earlier (1956) interpretation of po-re-na as a noun *phorēn (*φορην; see below). In his review of this collection of papers (i.e. Bennett 1964), Palmer (1965:315) has harsh words for Georgiev: “It is regrettable to see po-re-na still quoted as an athematic infinitive, although it has long been recognised to be a noun . . . ,” citing only himself (Palmer 1955) for this “long-recognized” view.[6] In his Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts (first published 1963) Palmer had glossed po-re-na as “‘defilements’ (?),”[7] as in Palmer 1955 (p. 10).  In his review of the Bennett volume, however, Palmer (1965) proposes a different sense, writing that (p. 320) “it would seem most plausible to take the word as referring to cult objects which can be ‘incensed’ and girded (?).” Clearly there has been a good bit of opinion switching in the matter of the meaning of po-re-na.

§4. In the second edition of Documents in Mycenaean Greek (Ventris and Chadwick 1973:460–461) Chadwick proposes that “the po-re-na [of Tn 316] must be the ten persons who are led to the rite; though no Greek word provides an interpretation it may seem appropriate to translate as victims.” Several other investigators who regard po-re-na as a noun, both before and since Ventris and Chadwick 1973, have advocated for the sense ‘victims’.[8] Palaima can be numbered among those who contend for a nominal interpretation, though he states (1999:454) that he finds “no compelling reason why po-re-na has to refer to human victims,”[9] but does not dismiss the possibility that such is the proper reading. Palaima allows the potentiality that the sense of the term could be ‘porteur’,[10] thus connecting po-re-na with the root of the verb phorēnai (φορῆναι). As we have just seen, in 1956 Georgiev had interpreted po-re-na as accusative of a noun *phorēn (*φορην)—a view that he subsequently abandoned. Among those who view the form as a nominal, this morpho-lexical analysis of po-re-na has, however, been that one most widely held, if sometimes tentatively (thus, Palmer 1969:267: “the morphological analysis of *φορενα is unclear”).[11]

§5. As we have seen, in his investigation of the recurring phrase do-ra-qe, pe-re, po-re-na-qe, a-ke, Nagy, along with Willi, contends for the reading of po-re-na as the infinitive phorēnai (φορῆναι). In doing so Nagy responds to objections to his arguments that appear in Palaima 1996–1997 and 1999 (see also Palaima 2011:66), pointing out the significant problem that an envisioned o-grade nominal *phorēn (*φορην) would be of a type without morphological parallel in Greek (Nagy 2015 §§ 20–25), a hobbling hardship undoubtedly reflected in the vacillations and uncertainties that characterize the treatments of earlier investigators. While advocating for this interpretation Palaima too acknowledges the difficulty (1999:454n57): “The o-grade treatment in *po-re = *φορην is problematical no matter whether one interprets the word ‘actively’ as ‘he/she who carries’ or ‘passively’ as ‘he/she/it who/which is brought.”[12] Contrast with an aberrant *phorēn (*φορην) the expected e-grade seen in phernē (φερνή), Aeolic pherena (φέρενα)[13], denoting ‘dowry; bridal gift’—i.e. that which a bride brings. To explicate the meaning Joannes Tzetzes, Exegesis in Homeri Iliadem 115.71, makes recourse to the feminine participle hai pherousai (αἱ φερούσαι) ‘those bearing’: φερένας καὶ φρένας τὰς φερούσας νοῦν. Doric shows a form pherna (φερνά), attested at Epidaurus (IG IV2, 1 40.6–7; IG IV2, 1 41.7–8) and used to signify the portion of an offering that is dedicated to a deity—consistent in sense with use of the formula of offering presentation of Pylos tablet Tn 316, in which the infinitive phorēnai (φορῆναι) occurs.

§6. In arguing that po-re-na spells the infinitive phorēnai (φορῆναι), Nagy (2015 §4) draws attention to two important dialect considerations: (1) the refashioning of finite verbs terminating in -éō (-έω) as athematic forms ending in -ēmi (-ημι) and (2) the formation of the corresponding infinitives in -ēnai (-ῆναι) represent an innovation associated with the Arcado-Cypriot dialect group of the first millennium BC.[14] This Arcadian dialect feature is visible in the Homeric Kunstsprache: both Eustathius, in his commentary on the Iliad, and Homeric scholia draw explicit attention to the athematic finite verb phorēmi (φόρημι) and its relationship to the infinitive of the form phorēnai (φορῆναι).[15] That the Greek of the Linear B documents shares the innovation—as suggested by phorenai (φορῆναι)—gives evidence of a particular dialect relatedness between that second-millennium linguistic system and Arcado-Cypriot. This specific observation is consistent with an otherwise endorsed view of the palpable closeness of Mycenaean Greek and Arcado-Cypriot.[16]


§7. Thebes tablet Of 26 preserves the form po-re-si, an apparent dative plural, which has been commonly cited in support of a nominal interpretation of po-re-na.[17] Tablet Of 26 records consignments of wool (ku LANA) preceded by a grammatical directive (either an allative in -de or a dative-case form) that signals the recipient:

.1         pu2-re-wa ,                    ku LANA PA 1 ka-ka[  ] ku LANA PA 1
.2         su-me-ra-we-jo ,        ku LANA PA 1 1 ko/qi-ḍẹ-wa-o , do-de ku LANA PA 1
.3         di-u-ja-wo ,  do-de[  ]      ku  LANA  PA  1  po-re-si   ku  LANA 1

Toward identifying the recipients in these lines we can rewrite them with partial translation in the following way:

.1         For Pu2-re-wa ku LANA PA 1; for Ka-ka[  ] ku LANA PA 1
.2         For Su-me-ra-we-jo ku LANA PA 1; to the do of Ko/Qi-de-wa ku LANA PA 1
.3         to the do of Di-u-ja-wo ku LANA PA 1; po-re-si ku LANA 1

As the translation indicates, allative expressions appear to occur twice, when the wool is destined for a do (commonly interpreted as ‘house’, i.e. [δῶ])—that of Ko/Qi-de-wa and that of Di-u-ja-wo. These forms have been construed as genitives, given the context provided by this and related tablets: Ko/Qi-de-wa is not otherwise attested in the Mycenaean documents; Di-u-ja-wo is most likely genitive plural of Diwyarwos (Δίϝyαρϝος) ‘priest of Diwia’.[18]

§8. Commonly, however, recipients appearing on the Thebes Of tablets look to be marked by the dative case. Palaima (1996–1997:308–309) points out that the use of allative expressions (and locatives) alongside datives is frequently found in Mycenaean allocation records, particularly those dealing with matters of cult. In the instance of the Thebes Of series, dative singular morphology can be identified with reasonable confidence in the case of the names written Pa-pa-ra-ki (Of 25); A-re-i-ze-we-i (Of 37); and Qa-ra2-te (Of 38).[19] The dative plural ma-ri-ne-we-ja-i, a derivative of a man’s name, or possibly of a theonym,[20] ‘to the women of Ma-ri-ne-u’, is found twice in these materials (Of 25; Of 35). Various deities do appear in the Thebes Of series. On tablet Of 28 wool is consigned E-ra, most probably dative ‘for Hera’, whose name is seemingly modified by an epithet ke-o-te-ja. The fragmentary tablet Of 31 appears to preserve allative phrases in lines one and two, followed in the third line by the form E-ma-a2 ‘for Hermāhās’ (Hermes)—a god for whom gifts are reported as carried on Tn 316.[21] Del Freo and Rougemont (2012:270), extrapolating from Hiller (1987:245–246), are most likely correct in proposing that various feminine appellatives appearing in the Of tablets are to be read as dative singular. Beyond these, still other recipients are probably recorded in the dative case on Of tablets. Succinctly, this set consists minimally of the following men’s names: Pu2-re-wa (Of 26)[22]; Su-me-ra-we-jo (Of 26);[23] Pi-ro-pe-se-wa (Of 28);[24] I-da-i-jo (Of 28);[25] Ku-ru-me-no (Of 33)[26]—and perhaps also Ne-e-to (Of 38) and Ṇẹ-a2-ri-da (Of 39).[27]

§9. This brings us to a closer consideration of the form po-re-si of tablet Of 26. We have seen now that it co-occurs with two allative phrases and two probable datives of proper names (Pu2-re-wa and Su-me-ra-we-jo). In light of the evidence regarding the marking of recipients of wool on Of tablets in the dative case, po-re-si must certainly be read as dative, and this seems to have been the default parsing for most investigators.[28] Those who interpret po-re-na as a nominal on Tn 316 (rather than as an infinitive) would see in po-re-si a dative plural of that same nominal. Hiller (2011:182), for example, writes that po-re-si “is obviously the dat. (pl.) of po-re-na, designation of persons (victims, bearers of gold vessels?) who appear in clearly religious function on the Pylos ‘pantheon tablet’ Tn 316.”[29] In order to understand the term as a dative denoting ‘ones who bear [gold vessels etc.]’ it is not, however, necessary to interpret po-re-si as a form of the problematic, conjectured noun *phorēn (*φορην).

§10. As we have seen, it is the Arcadian dialect of the first millennium BC that is crucially significant in elucidating the morphology of second-millennium po-re-na. Verbs that end in -éō (-έω) in most dialects appear as athematic verbs in -ēmi (-ημι) in Arcadian, with corresponding infinitives formed in -ēnai (-ῆναι). Linear B po-re-na can be understood to spell this infinitive phorēnai (φορῆναι). In his discussion of Arcadian verb morphology, Dubois (1988:143) draws attention to an accusative singular participle kuensan (κυενσαν; IPArk 34.12), comparing the Attic inscriptional correspondent kuōsan (κυõσαν; SEG 33:147.39, 44), participle of the thematic contract verb kueō (κυέω) ‘to bear in the womb, be pregnant with’. The Arcadian participle kuensan (κυενσαν) clearly points to an athematic finite verb *kuēmi (*κύημι).[30] In other words:

Arcadian kuensan (κυενσαν) : kuēmi (κύημι) :: Attic kuōsan (κυõσαν) : kueō (κυέω)

Correspondingly, Linear B po-re-si on Thebes tablet Of 26 must certainly spell the dative plural participle phor-en-si (φορ-εν-σι),[31] recording an allotment of wool assigned ‘to/for those who carry’. Compare, with Ionic thematic morphology, the participle, for example, of Iliad 8.89, where the charging chariot steeds of Hector are described as θρασὺν ἡνίοχον φορέοντες (phoreontes) Ἕκτορα ‘those that carry the recklessly bold charioteer, Hector’.

§11. Aeolic shares with Arcadian the -ēmi (-ημι) athematic inflection of verbs that terminate in -éō (-έω) in Attic-Ionic and elsewhere (but not the corresponding infinitive in -ēnai [-ῆναι]). Thus, Alcaeus fr. 41.10 (Lobel and Page) preserves ]phoren[t]es [ (] φόρεν[τ]ες [) ‘ones carrying’, a nominative plural participle of phorēmi (φόρημι). One would have expected Aeolic *phorēntes (*φόρηντες) and perhaps the reading should be emended accordingly. Regardless, the significance of this form for understanding Mycenaean po-re-si can hardly be overstated. The context of Alcaeus’ participle is one having cult indications, with surrounding fragmented references to notions agnai (ἄγναι) ‘pure’ (l. 7); iran (ἴραν) ‘sacred’ (l. 9); oin[o]n (οἶν[ο]ν) ‘wine’ (l. 11); kitharis (κίθαρις) ‘lyre’ (l. 14); te]menos lakhois[a (τέ]μενος λαχοισ[α) ‘having obtained a temenos’ (l. 17); k]oruphan polēos (κ]ορύφαν πόληος) ‘peak of the polis’ (l. 18); Aphrodita (Ἀφρόδιτα) ‘Aphrodite’ (l. 19). We surely find ourselves here enmeshed in a lexical web of Lesbian ritual[32] that continues among its constituent strands an ancestral Mycenaean cult term for those whose role it is ‘to bear’—phorēnai (φορῆναι)—offerings for the gods. The quasi-official nature of the participle’s use in Mycenaean cult terminology is revealed by the alternation of po-re-si with forms such as po-ti-ni-ja wo-ko-de ‘to the woikos of Potnia’ and various names of divine and priestly recipients in the Of series as discussed above. Compare here the term ka-ra-wi-po-ro (κλαϝι-φόρος) ‘key bearer’, naming a sacred officiant at Pylos.

§12. Regarding the short vowel of the reading ]phoren[t]es [ (]φόρεν[τ]ες [) of Alcaeus’ fragment, compare later spelling variation seen in three Lesbian inscriptions: (1) IG XII,2 15.18 from Mytilene (ca. 193 BC) shows a genitive plural participle katoikēntōn (κατοικήντων), from athematic *katoikēmi (*κατοίκημι), Attic katoikeō (κατοικέω) ‘to settle, dwell in’; (2) SEG 36:750.17, also from Mytilene, but earlier (ca. 340–330 BC),[33] attests a short-vowel variant of the participle, katoikentōn (κατοικέντων); (3) IG XII Suppl. 692.23 from Eresos (second century BC) similarly preserves katoikenṭ[ō]ṇ (κατοικέντ̣[ω]ν̣).[34] Some conditioned shortening of the suffixal vowel is perhaps suggested in the context created by the participial morphology by the later fourth century.[35]


§13. There is at least one—possibly two—additional Linear B form(s) in which a purported nominal po-re-na has been judged to play a role. Pylos tablet Un 443 + 998 records the entry po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja, followed by a specification of a measure of wool. The tablet reads as follows:

.1         ku-pi-ri-jo , tu-ru-pte-ri-ja , o-no LANA  10  *146  10
.2         po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja    LANA  3
.3                 ]ḍọ-ke , ka-pa-ti-ja , HORD 2 te-ri-ja GRA 1̣ LANA 5

Palmer (1962:578n1; 1965:316–322; 1969:446) segments po-re-no from the syntagm/compound and connects the remaining morphology (zo-te-ri-ja) with that family of terms headed by the verb zōnnumi (ζώννυμι) ‘to gird’, identifying po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja as the name of a festival. Many investigators have proceeded likewise.[36]

§14. Towards making sense of Linear B po-re-no (in po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja), it is important to take account of the Sanskrit derivative nominal bharaṇa.[37] The Sanskrit verbal root bhar(from PIE *bher-) ‘to bear, carry’ is cognate with Greek pher- (φερ-)—thus, Sanskrit bharati, Greek pherō (φέρω), the finite verbs. With the Sanskrit thematic nominal bharás ‘bearing’ (adjective) and bháras ‘a bearing away, plunder’ (noun), from e-grade *bher-, compare Greek phorós (φορός) ‘bearing; fertile’ and phóros (φόρος) ‘payment, tribute’ (i.e. ‘that which is brought’), from o-grade *bhor-. With these o-grade forms of Greek compare Sanskrit bhāra- ‘burden; labor; bulk’. For Greek e-grade nominal derivatives consider pher-ma (φέρ-μα) ‘fetus; harvest’ (Sanskrit bharman- ‘support; nourishment’), in addition to the above-mentioned phernē (φερνή), Aeolic pherena (φέρενα) ‘dowry; bridal gift’, and pherna (φερνά), denoting the deity’s portion.

§15. Sanskrit bharaṇa is derived from bhar by means of the suffix ana, descended from a primitive Indo-European formant *-e/ono-. The Sanskrit suffix produces two morpho-semantically distinct formations, depending on accent placement, both of which constitute nominals with conspicuous verbal qualities. Thus, on the one hand, when the accent falls on the root, a neuter noun is derived that signifies the result of an action: for example, vácana– ‘word’ (from vac- ‘to speak’), káraṇa– ‘deed’ (from kr̥- ‘to make, do’). On the other hand, when the accent falls on the anasuffix (i.e. –aná-), the nominal derived serves as an adjective or “agent noun”: for example, vacaná– ‘speaking’, karaṇá– ‘active, skilled’ (i.e. ‘doing’).[38] Avestan provides evidence of the inherited formant as well: for example, ham-ərəna- ‘battle’ beside Sanskrit sam-áraṇa- ‘battle’ (from r̥- ‘to go towards, attack’; cf. Greek or-nu-mi [ὄρ-νυ-μι] ‘to incite, rush on’); varəna- ‘choice, belief’ beside Sanskrit varaṇá- ‘choosing’.[39]

§16. The formant is clearly of primitive Indo-European origin, leaving reflexes outside of Indo-Iranian. [40] Comparable formations occur regularly and plentifully in Slavic built with the e-grade of the Indo-European formant (i.e. *-eno-) and functioning as past passive participles, as in Old Church Slavic nes-enŭ ‘carried’.[41] The formant similarly survives in Germanic, typically attested as reflexes of the o-grade, though the e-grade variants are widely, if not commonly, preserved. In his examination of the variable survival of *-eno- in Germanic, Nielsen (1992:641–642)[42] identifies past participles of this e-grade form from across the Germanic family, such as the following: Old English binumine ‘taken away’, forsleginum ‘struck down’; Old Frisian fendsen ‘caught’, hwendsen ‘hung’; Old Norse gripinn ‘seized’, tekinn ‘taken’; Early Runic faikinaz ‘threatened’, haitinaz ‘called’; Gothic fulgins ‘secret’ (i.e. ‘hidden’), aigin ‘property’ (i.e. ‘owned’); and probably Old High German abasnitine ‘cut off’ and Old Saxon bismitin ‘soiled’ and kumin(a) ‘come’.[43]

§17. Morphologically, Sanskrit bharaṇa, denoting ‘bearing’; ‘the act of bearing (in the womb), bringing; (hence) payment’,[44] suggests a Greek o-grade cognate phoreno- (φορενο-). Sanskrit bháraṇa surfaces in the Rig Veda—in hymn 10.36, “an extremely obscure hymn” dedicated to All Gods, but principally a song in praise of Agni.[45] The locative bharaṇe occurs in the sixth stanza, in a reference to gods carried within a womb (seemingly the womb of Agni; see 6c–d): bharaṇa here appears to signify the fetal ‘burden’ of the womb,[46] or else the action of bearing a fetus (i.e. of being in the condition of pregnancy).[47] If, in fact, po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja denotes a festival, and if Linear B po-re-no- spells phoreno- (φορενο-), o-grade equivalent to bharaṇa, as appears probable, then the festival so named could literally (componentially) denote something like a ‘girding of fetus-bearing’, that is, ‘of childbearing’. For semantic similarity within Greek compare the, chiefly, o-grade forms phor-a (φορ-ά) ‘gestation; productiveness’, phor-as (φορ-άς) ‘fecund; brood-mare’, phor-imos (φόρ-ιμος) ‘fertile’, pher-ma (φέρ-μα) ‘fetus’. The e-grade structural equivalent survives in Aeolic pherena (φέρενα), ‘dowry; bridal gift’, the exact cognate of Sanskrit bharaṇa-.[48] One might possibly understand the po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja as a communal celebratory event dedicated to clothing women in a way that makes an outward declaration of a fetus borne within them. Such a ‘girding of childbearing’, one might imagine, may simply be an “un-girding” or a girding with something other than a conventional belt (on pregnant women depicted as wearing unbelted garments on archaic Greek votive plaques see Lee 2012:26–28).

§18. More likely, however, po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja would name a festival at which women who had given birth were ritually and symbolically re-girded following birth. The anthropological primitive associating untying and unbinding with childbirth has been carefully explored by Bettini (2013:69–82, see especially pp. 70–74), who draws attention to how a woman’s act of ungirding as labor begins became, in antiquity, a metaphor for birthing, as seen, for example, in Callimachus Hymns 4.209 (λύσατο δὲ ζώνην ‘she loosened her belt’) and 4.222 (μίτρην ἀναλύεται ‘she is undoing her girdle’), used of Leto. The lexical concatenation of luō + zōnē (λύω + ζώνη), as in 4.209, finds expression in the adjective lusizōnos (λυσίζωνος) ‘loosening the belt’, used as an epithet of Eileithyia in her role as goddess who comforts and brings women through childbirth (Theocritus Idylls 17.60; Cornutus De natura deorum 73; Orphic Hymns 2.7–9), and similarly of Artemis (Libanius Epistulae 371.4; Hesychius Λ 1443).[49] The metaphor is encountered in the form luein mitrēn (λύειν μίτρην) ‘to loosen the girdle’ in the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius (1.288): a scholiast on the line explains that ‘women giving birth for the first time loosen their girdles and dedicate them to Artemis; for which reason there is also a temple of Artemis Lusizonos in Athens’.[50] Lee (2012:33–36; 2015:213–214), following Morizot 2004, draws attention to a fourth-century BC votive plaque from Echinus that depicts worshippers of Artemis presenting an infant before an image of the goddess, with a variety of gowns—votive offerings, seemingly—shown as suspended within the goddess’ shrine. She also notes the practice of women offering various garments to Artemis in her sanctuary at Brauron.[51] On textile dedications to deities recorded in the epigrams of the Greek Anthology see Table 32 in Brøns 2016.[52] Seven such dedicatory epigrams are specified as occasioned by childbirth: in each of these instances the recipient deity is either Eileithyia (three times)[53] or Artemis (four times);[54] and garments offered include belts, undergarments, breastbands, hairbands, chitons, pepla—among still other items, including, commonly, sandals, the loosening of which is conspicuous in the sympathetic context of easy birthing (see Bettini 2103:71–74). A cult setting for Pylos tablet Un 443 + 998 (on which po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja occurs) is suggested by the occurrence of the name Ka-pa-ti-ja (Karpathiā) on line three (see above), naming a woman who contributes a large quantity of barley, perhaps for the celebration of the festival; a cult official—a ka-ra-wi-po-ro (κλαϝιφόρος) ‘key bearer’—of the same name appears on Pylos tablets Eb 338 + fr. and Ep 704.[55]

§19. While Linear B po-re-no- can be reasonably read as phoreno- (φορενο-), cognate with Sanskrit bharaṇa, the evidence for survival of the primitive Indo-European suffix *-e/ono- in Greek is meager.[56] We have already noted the Aeolic feminine pherena (φέρενα), denoting that which a bride brings. Aeolic thus continues not only the Mycenaean participle po-re-si (Lesbian ]φόρεν[τ]ες [) ‘ones carrying’) but an e-grade form of Mycenaean po-re-no- as well.

§20. Reflexes of o-grade *-ono- appear to be slightly more common. The following examples can be identified; for fuller treatment of these forms see the companion article that accompanies this essay (“Further Thoughts on Linear B po-re-na, po-re-si, and po-re-no-): (1) kl-ono-s (κλ-όνο-ς) ‘confused motion; throng’; (2) thr-ono-s (θρ-όνο-ς) ‘seat; oracular seat’, beside Linear B to-no (i.e. thor-no-s), as well as to-ro-no-wo-ko (probably thr-ono-worgoi ‘seat makers’); (3) khr-ono-s (χρ-όνο-ς) ‘time’; (4) amp-ekh-ono-n (ἀμπ-έχ-ονο-ν; and ampekhonē [ἀμπεχόνη]) ‘shawl; clothing’; (5) possibly phth-ono-s (φθ-όνο-ς) ‘malice’. Probable feminine nominals include these: (6) hēd-onē (ἡδ-ονή) ‘enjoyment, pleasure’; (7) per-onē (περ-όνη) ‘pin (of a buckle, etc.); (8) bel-onē (βελ-όνη) ‘needle’; (9) ak-onē (ἀκ-όνη) ‘whetstone’.

§21. In its relative rarity in Greek the *-e/ono- suffix fundamentally parallels the status of the related formant *-no-. An examination of Greek *-no- reflexes can be found in “Further Thoughts on Linear B po-re-na, po-re-si, and po-re-no-. Suffice it to say, concisely, in the present discussion that these reflexes significantly populate the vocabulary of religion and that preservation of these several forms must surely be another expression of the tendency of early Indo-European languages to cling to the ancestral lexicon of cult speech with particular tenacity, as observed by Vendryes a century ago (Vendryes 1918).

§22. If Linear B po-re-no is to be rightly understood as phoreno- (φορενο-), cognate with Sanskrit bharaṇa, a form providing a trace preservation of the ancestral formant *-eno-, the cause of that preservation must similarly lie in the use of the term in sacred phrasing. No less than po-re-si, po-re-no- must belong to the Mycenaean lexicon of cult—as it self-evidently does, to the extent that the compound po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja has been rightly understood to be the name of a religious festival. Moreover, many students of Linear B would identify yet an additional example of phoreno- (φορενο-) being used in a parallel way.

§23. The brief and broken inscription of Pylos tablet Ua 1413 (from a series containing the state-banquet documents) inventories in its first line a consignment of cloth: 7 units of *146 cloth and 1 unit of *166+WE, with a break following. The second line begins ro-u-si-jo, a-ko-ro ‘field of Lousos’, referencing the environs of one of the major cities in the vicinity of the Pylos palace. This locational descriptor is followed by a single and incomplete form, po-re-no-tu-ṭẹ[. The form has been aggressively and “almost universally restored”[57] to read po-re-no-tu-ṭẹ[-ri-ja, with the second element of the form, *tu-te-ri-ja, understood as θυ(σ)τήρια,[58] denoting an element of offering; and, thus, for those who interpret po-re-na as victims, the restored po-re-no-tu-ṭẹ[-ri-ja signals the ‘sacrifice of victims’.[59] The form po-re-no-tu- ṭẹ[ has, as with po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja, been interpreted as the name of a festival.[60] Palaima (1999:455), urging caution, notes that according to Aristarchus (p. 455n62) “in Homer θύειν [thuein] is used of offering and burning but never of slaughtering victims in sacrifice (σφάξαι [sphaksai]).” Palaima also calls attention to Plato’s Euthyphro 14C, in which Socrates is made to say that the act of thuein (θύειν) is that of making a gift to the gods. We might note that Plato’s Socrates contrasts this act with that of eukhesthai [εὔχεσθαι] ‘to pray’, which is asking something from the gods. If in fact po-re-no-tu-ṭẹ[ were properly restored as po-re-no-tu-ṭẹ[-ri-ja we would likely see a reference to an offering made in conjunction with phoreno- (φορενο-) in the sense ‘childbearing’.  Such a ritual offering, whether undertaken in order to promote conception and ensure healthy fetal development and safe childbirth or in thanksgiving for these, belongs to the same sphere of activity as the presentation of votive vestments of pregnancy to Artemis that we considered above in our discussion of po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja. In fact, the action described by the hypothesized form *po-re-no-tu-te-ri-ja could itself entail the offering of such textile items. Is the po-re-no-tu-ṭẹ[-ri-ja a festival at which such vestments were offered? As we observed above, various votive objects offered to such ends are well attested in post-Mycenaean Greece, as are prayers of thanksgiving for aid in birth.[61] In the documents of Mycenaean Greece the birth goddess Eileithyia is mentioned four times, and in three of these instances (Knossos tablets Od 714, 715, and 716) she is mentioned in conjunction with a consignment of wool.

§24. In conclusion, the interpretation of Linear B po-re-na as a Mycenaean athematic infinitive phorēnai (φορῆναι) is consistent not only with an Indo-European syntagmatic pattern and a linguistic feature of the closely related Arcadian dialect, but is also consistent with the analysis of po-re-si as a dative plural, specifically phor-en-si (φορ-εν-σι), the dative plural of the athematic participle of phorēnai (φορῆναι), of a type attested in both Arcadian and Aeolic. The interpretation of one form informs that of the other. Po-re-no-, in contrast, preserves a primitive Indo-European morphology. Read as a nominal phoreno- (φορενο-), cognate with Sanskrit bharaṇa, the Mycenaean form is likely inherited from the liturgical language of Proto-Graeco-Indo-Iranian tradition, if not from that of an earlier period.



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Walde, Alois and Julius Pokorny. 1927. Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der indogermanischen Sprachen. Volume 2. Berlin and Leipzig: De Gruyter.

________. 1930. Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der indogermanischen Sprachen. Volume 1. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Wendel, Karl. 1935. Scholia in Apollonium Rhodium vetera. Berlin: Weidmann.

Whitney, William Dwight. 1960. Sanskrit Grammar: Including both the Classical Language, and the Older Dialects, of Veda and Brahmana. Second Edition. Ninth Reprinting. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Willi, Andreas. 1994–1995. “Do-ra-qe Pe-re Po-re-na-qe A-ke: An Indo-European Figure in Mycenaean?” Minos 29–30:177–185.

Woodard, Roger D. Forthcoming. “A Formal and Functional Interpretation of Linear B qi-wo as kwiwo- ‘Cairn’.” In Bichlmeier, Šefčik, and Sukač forthcoming.




[1] Pylos is written in oversized symbols along the left margin of the text area, positioned approximately as in the translation.

[2] See also Vilborg 1960:113, tentatively following Ventris and Chadwick’s interpretation.

[3] Herein references to Nagy’s work are to paragraph numbers of the revised and expanded versions.

[4] See Bennett 1964.

[5] And for the same view expressed still earlier in print, see Chadwick and Baumbach 1963:254: “po-re-na PY Tn 316 has been interpreted as infin. phorēnai (φορῆναι) but is now generally believed to be a noun.”

[6] Palmer (1965:315n9) cites Ventris and Chadwick (1956; in spite of Chadwick and Baumbach 1963:254, noted above) and Chantraine (1957 [=1973]) as still considering po-re-na to be an infinitive.

[7] See Palmer (1969 [revised edition]: 53, 63, 260, 266–267, 446).

[8] On the attribution of the meaning ‘victims’ to a nominal po-re-na, with varying degrees of confidence, see, inter alia, Heubeck 1966:102 (“ ‘Opferdiener’, ‘Sklave’, ‘Menschenopfer’ o. ä.”); Ruijgh 1967:115n79; Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:94; Duhoux 1976:127 (“po-re-na pourrait signifier approximativement « victimes », vel sim.”); Hooker 1977:176–178 (“it is probable, on the whole”); Aura Jorro 1993:143; Bartoněk 2003:247, 252, 377, 379; Duhoux 2008:331; Hiller 2011:181–182 (with the gloss “victims, bearers of gold vessels?”), 199–200, 206–207.

[9] See also Palaima 2011:66.

[10] This is the gloss proposed by Gérard-Rousseau 1968:177.

[11] On *φορην in addition to Georgiev 1956:67 and Palmer 1969:267 see also, inter alia, Luria 1957:42 (φορηνά); Gérard-Rousseau 1968:177 (*φορην); Duhoux 1976:127 (*φορήν). Thumb and Scherer 1959 question a reading of po-re-na as accusative plural of *φορήν, along with its meaning “die als Tribut geschuldeten Menschen;” similarly, Doria 1965:232 — *φορηνά (?) ‘offerte, vittime sacrificali’? (φορέω).

[12] Toward affirming *phorēn (*φορην) Palaima offers, in the same footnote, examples of various morphologies which he would argue to buttress the interpretation.

[13] Aelius Herodianus and Pseudo-Herodianus De prosodia catholica 3,1.327; Etymologicum magnum p. 790.

[14] Nagy references Thumb and Scherer 1959:133, 169. See also, inter alia: for Arcadian, Dubois 1988:142–146, 176–177; and for Cypriot, Egetmeyer 2010:1:469–471, and 524–525 on the infinitival evidence in Cypriot.

[15] See Eustathius Commentarii ad Homeri Iliadem (= van der Valk 1971–1987) 1.284; 2.17, 142, 429; 3.66; Scholia in Iliadem (scholia vetera [= Erbse 1969–1988]) 10.270; Scholia in Iliadem (scholia vetera et recentiora e cod. Genevensi gr. 44 [= Nicole 1966]) 10.270.

[16] On which see Nagy 2008:II§§139–141. See also, inter alia, Thumb and Scherer 1959:326; Vilborg 1960:22; Palmer 1969:36–37, 60–62; Chantraine 1973:504–507; Duhoux 1983:46–47; Bartoněk 1987:12–13 and Table B; Thompson 2010:198–199.

[17] See, inter alia, Ventris and Chadwick 1973:461 and 573, indicating uncertainty; Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:94; Duhoux 1976:127; Hooker 1977:176; Aura Jorro 1993:143; Palaima 1996–1997:308–309 and 1999:455; Bartoněk 2003:247, 252, 377, 379; Hiller 2011:182.

[18] The interpretation follows observations made by Ruijgh 1967 and Gulizio 2000. Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:88 take Di-u-ja-wo to be a man’s name, but the -wo termination is problematic; they attempt to resolve the problem by uncomfortably emending the reading to di-u-ja-wo<-no>; others have followed. For discussion of the form see Woodard forthcoming b.

[19] With the last named compare the allative of tablet Of 37, Qa-ra-to-de, preceding A-re-i-ze-we-i.

[20] For discussion see, inter alia, Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:93; Killen 1979:176–178 (especially note ** on p. 178); Rougemont 2005:336n56; Duhoux 2008:261–262; Killen 2008:188.

[21] Potnia and Komāwenteiā are similarly found both on Tn 316 and in this series: the former in an allative phrase on Of 36 (see below and discussion in Woodard forthcoming b) and the latter on Of 35, perhaps in the genitive case, modifying a dative recipient.

[22] See Ventris and Chadwick 1973:576; Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:104.

[23] See Aura Jorro 1993:304, with bibliography.

[24] See Ventris and Chadwick 1973:572; Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:105.

[25] See Aura Jorro 1985:271–272, with bibliography.

[26] See Aura Jorro 1985:408, with bibliography.

[27] See Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:107.

[28] Thus, Spyropoulos and Chadwick 1975:105; Lejeune 1976:82 (deferring to Chadwick); Duhoux 1976:127; Hiller 1987:246 and 2011:182; Palaima 1996–1997:308–309; Del Freo and Rougemont 2012:270.

[29] Cf. Palaima 1999:455. See also Rodríguez 2014, who would interpret po-re-na as denoting individuals who carry offerings but who explicitly rejects (see p. 196, n. 24) the infinitival interpretations of Willi and of Nagy.

[30] Here Dubois also calls attention to the gloss of Hesychius K 4434: kuessan: kuousan (κύεσσαν· κύουσαν).

[31] With the spelling po-re-si (from earlier *phor-ent-si) compare Linear B spellings such as dative pa-si (from earlier *pant-si), as in pa-si-te-o-i ‘for all gods’ (frequent at Knossos), and so on; see, inter alia, Ventris and Chadwick 1973:83; Lejeune 1982:75.

[32] On ritual performance of Aeolian lyric see Nagy 2007, with references to earlier work.

[33] See Heisserer and Hodot 1986:119.

[34] Compare also Thessalian dative plural katoikentessi (κατοικέντεσσι) in IG IX,2 517.14 and 18, from Larisa (214 BC).

[35] See the discussion of Blümel 1982:54, 218–219 who draws attention to Lesbian inscriptions (1) and (3) above and suggests a shortening of the vowel before the sequence sonorant + obstruent, and conversely, in certain finite forms, a lengthening conditioned by the same context.

[36] See Heubeck 1966:105; Ruijgh 1967:115; Duhoux 1976:127–128; Hiller and Panagl 1986:312; Palaima 1995:455; 1996–1997:306–308; Bartoněk 2003:207, 379; Lupack 2006:100n46; Hiller 2011:172, 199.

[37] On the morphology see Burrow 1955:150–151; Whitney 1960:426–428.

[38] See Whitney 1960:427; Burrow 1955:150.

[39] On the Avestan morphology, see Jackson 1892:214–215.

[40] See Brugmann 1892:141–145.

[41] See, inter alia, Burrow 1955:150; Andersen 1998:446–447; Lunt 2001:110–111.

[42] See also Nielsen 1989:8–9; Harðarson 2017:945–947.

[43] Nielsen (1992:642) observes: “Both ablaut grades were thus originally known throughout Germanic.”  A Germanic sound change analysis speculated by Ringe and Taylor (2014:20) is redundant and unlikely in light of the comparative evidence; Ringe 2017:218 appears to be more in line with Brugmann, Nielsen, Harðarson et al.

[44] From *bher-eno-. While Indo-European *e and *o generally merge with *a as a in the evolution of Sanskrit, *o develops into ā in open syllables (Brugmann’s Law).

[45] The quotation is from Jamison and Brereton 2014:1424; see their translation and discussion of the hymn on pp. 1424–1426. See also Geldner 1951–1957:3:177–180.

[46] Grassmann 1875:927.

[47] Monier-Williams 1979:747.

[48] See already Brugmann 1892:141.

[49] Hesychius references the use of lusizōnos (λυσίζωνος) to describe also a woman at the point of becoming a bride, the moment of presenting her reproductive capacities to her husband, writing that the term is used of any woman who has been given in marriage. Complementary to this, the Suda reports (Λ 859) that lusizōnos (λυσίζωνος) describes a woman who has had intercourse with a man, as virgins about to have sex dedicate their own virginal belts to Artemis.

[50] Scholia in Apollonii Rhodii Argonautica (scholia vetera [= Wendel 1935]) 33: λύουσι γὰρ τὰς Ζώνας αἱ πρώτως τίκτουσαι καὶ ἀνατιθέασιν Ἀρτέμιδι· ὅθεν καὶ Λυσιζώνου Ἀρτέμιδος ἱερὸν έν Ἀθήναις. See Bettini 2013:263n17 on the scene of such a dedication illustrated on an Attic white-figure vase.

[51] These items are catalogued in Cleland 2005; see also Linders 1972 and Foxhall and Stears 2000. See also Lee 1999:218–269 and especially Brøns 2016.

[52] See also Bettini 2013:263–264nn21–22, including additional bibliography.

[53] Epigrams 6.200 (Leonidas), 270 (Nicias), and 274 (Perses). See also 6.146 (Callimachus), in which no votive textile is specified.

[54] Epigrams 6.201 (Marcus Argentarius), 202 (Leonidas of Tarentum), 271 (Phaedimus), and 272 (Perses). See also 6.273 (in the style of Nossis), in which no votive textile is specified.

[55] See Nakassis 2013:130, 275.

[56] In the case of Mycenaean, a few Linear B lexemes of uncertain sense match the formal pattern. For example, Knossos tablet Fp 363 records olive oil offerings to a cult site and, seemingly, to female religious officiants (ki-ri-te-wi-ja): in the first line of the tablet there appears the obscure term te-re-no (on the tablet see Olsen 2014:192). Compare the root of teras (τέρας) ‘sign, portent’, of uncertain etymology.

[57] Palaima 1999:455. See also Palaima 1996–1997:306.

[58] Since at least Chadwick 1964:23. Compare Ruijgh 1967:115n79.

[59] See Duhoux 1976:128, with note 38; 2008:331; Bartoněk 2003:377 (“Menschenopfer?”).

[60] See Palmer 1965:326; 1969:447; Maurice 1988:128.

[61] In addition to works cited and discussed in the treatment of po-re-no-zo-te-ri-ja above, see also, inter alia, Cole 1998:29–35; Dillon 2002:19–23, 28–31; Demand 2004:87–101; Budin 2016:92–114.

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